By deltamag-ca | November 8, 2016 |
Soulful music with classical inspiration
By Erica Eason Hall Photography by Austin Britt
She rolled into the Mississippi Delta the way that many young college graduates do – through the Teach For America program. But what happened to Alice Hasen once she got here, is the journey of few.
Alice was born in Burlington, and raised in picturesque Shelburne, Vermont. Her mother was a flutist in the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Attending her mother’s concerts had a great influence over Alice’s future. There was no question from her mother about whether or not she wanted to play but rather which instrument to play. Alice chose the violin. The hypnotic magic of its sound mixed with the front row location of violinists in orchestra drew Alice in. She participated in her public school’s concert band where she played flute and violin and was a member of the Vermont Youth Orchestra. She discovered her competitive side during in high school while playing at local festivals and competitions.
Alice entered Yale University where she double majored in French and Music. She played the Yale Symphony Orchestra during her entire time there. She studied under professors of both Yale College and the Yale School of Music. Alice quickly learned that in order to thrive in such a highly skilled environment, she would have to trade her overwhelming competitiveness for inspiration and appreciation of her talented fellow students. The tamed competitor’s new found balance of humility and drive would be needed to ask her dean for a better professor from the very beginning. Alice courageously stood up for herself when her first professor largely ignored her when she played, saying she didn’t have a future in music. Alice refused to be discouraged, trusting her own intuition that music was definitely in her future. And under the guidance of her new primary professor, Sarita Kwok, she proved to be right.
While performing for fans is where she feels most alive today, Alice did not intend on becoming a professional music performer. With an internship with the Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City on her resume, upon graduating Yale, Alice applied for positions in arts administration and music instruction. At that time, the Teach For America program was only placing music instructors in the Mississippi Delta region. Alice applied and was placed as a music teacher and band director at Coahoma County Junior High and High School in Clarksdale. She held these positions for three years. And though being involved in music education was gratifying, the performer’s soul ached for more. She realized she missed the passion of expression through music that she was meant for.
On an autumn day in Clarksdale four years ago, Alice and guitarists Seth Stroud and Walt Busby formed Blackwater Trio. Alice admits that these Delta boys “turned her to the dark side” by urging her to use her sharp stringed talents to play non-classical music. This soulful trio performs all over the Mississippi Delta and beyond and have just recorded their first album which is set to debut this spring.
Alice recently moved to Memphis with her cat Bowie and when not performing she unwinds with silence and yoga. Living in the big city allows her to interact with a larger music network while still remaining closely connected to her Delta beginnings that are only a short drive away.
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